Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Going Deeper


In my last post, I addressed feelings and emotions and then Jeanette made a comment which I knew someone would make (thanks, Jeanette!). Yes, I agree-- the answer is not to squash down our negative emotions, only to have them surge forth in a flaming ball of fire some future day when it could no longer be contained (and in the meantime, making us physically sick). Heaven forbid.

No, there is something better. With God, there is always a better way.

Remember that Bible verse-- ..."it's the little foxes which spoil the vines"? Most of us have a whole pack of those rabid little foxes inside us, attacking any good root which tries to grow. No wonder it seems we never get anywhere--some of us have been so chewed up by those little red foxes, we are walking around almost more dead than living.

Examples of little foxes?

"I will never forgive that person."
"I've been hurt, so I'm afraid to try anything new."
"She offended me, so it's my right to tell the world about it/her."
"I don't feel well, so it's ok to yell at my family."
"This isn't gossip--it's just a prayer request."
"I've made too many mistakes--I don't deserve a second chance."
"God is mad at me."
"I can't give any money to that needy family--I need every cent for my own family."
"My husband bought what? Well, I'll just go out and buy something we cannot afford, too!"
"That's the last time I help her. She didn't even say thank-you."

And on and on to infinity.

It is not God's way to train those 'cute' little foxes and make pets of them. No, but it's our way. We attempt to live alongside those foxes and keep them as secret pets because some foxes make us feel good about ourselves. Some foxes feel like trophy pets--as though we appear more distinguished with them at our feet or draped around our neck as stoles.

But you cannot train a little fox. A little fox can never be trusted.

Little foxes must be killed.

And God is the great hunter, the only one who can go deep enough to find--and then shoot and kill-- those foxes which are eating us alive. The ones who justify our evil emotions and keep us from growing past them.

My bottom line? It's something I said in a comment box a few posts ago:

"God asked me to come to Him with my hurts and listen to what He had to say. But then He dug even deeper--He began telling me I needed to let go of what it was inside me that caused me to often feel hurt and offended in the first place. He said He had something better for me--and it meant giving people lots of slack and room to grow and the benefit of the doubt--and oh my, what a difference that made! No longer was there a need to heal what hadn't been hurt in the first place...."

I can't get that last sentence out of my mind.... Whatever hasn't been hurt in the first place, well, it needs no doctor. No opportunity to vent. No tears. No squashing down, stuffing down until it becomes a ball of flames.

"Love hardly even notices when others do it wrong." 1 Corinthians 13:5... Only God can grow that kind of love inside us, because only He is that kind of love.

And I am determined to let Him shoot any little fox inside me which tries to keep that kind of love from growing into a God Garden inside me.


***
"Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes." ... Song of Solomon 2:15

"But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." ... Matthew 6:15

Monday, January 30, 2006

Emotions


Emotions, feelings, and all that good stuff...

Now here's a topic you don't enter into lightly. I've heard many a woman hotly defend her feelings--sad, rabid or otherwise-- and her rights to them, but you won't hear this woman doing that.

Yet let me add here--if you want to continue being led around by your feelings and being dragged wherever they yank you, well, go for it. Good luck with that.

But here is my goal, a goal I keep aiming toward, one I still firmly (firmly!) remind myself of:

"...because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." ... Romans 8:14

Oh my.

When someone accuses me of something, I so do not want to go out, being led by anger or revenge.

When I'm corrected, I do not want to crawl away by myself to bathe in resentment.

When I'm forgotten, neglected or unappreciated, I don't want to allow bitterness to start telling me what to do and how I should feel.

When I'm lonely, I do not want to just start grasping at anything--good, bad, or ugly-- to make the loneliness go away.

When I'm yelled at, I do not want to yell back.

When my great plans shatter into smithereens, I don't want to attend a pathetic, all-day pity party held in my honor.

No, I have already been to the horrible, murky places my feelings led me. And nearly always, it took me months, or even years, to crawl back out of those dark and desperate lands.

I want, instead, to be led by the Spirit of God--I've been to some of those lands, too, and there was not a murky place nor shadow in any of them. Even if those Spirit-led steps took me to hard places (as they sometimes have), even there, I found Light and the encouragement whisper. You know, the one which begins, "Well done."

And once you hear that whisper, you can face just about anything up the stony road ahead.

***

"Not being able to govern events, I govern myself, and apply myself to them, if they will not apply themselves to me." ~Michel de Montaigne, Essays, 1588

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." ... 2 Timothy 1:7

Sunday, January 29, 2006

If You Liked Napoleon Dynamite...


... you might like the movie, Smoke Signals. Tom and I watched it yesterday--what a treasure! One moment we'd giggle, then moments later we'd brush away tears. Smoke Signals is on a deeper level than Napoleon, but there are similar delights and surprises. It strikes a perfect chord--not too light, not too dark. Just simply, perfect.

Perhaps we also liked this movie because it took place in our old neck of the woods--out West in Idaho (where we often used to vacation) and over land which very much looked like our old neighborhood, Nevada. It felt like a trip back home, even though we do not call Nevada home. But, well, maybe you know what I mean.

You can read about Smoke Signals here. There's no sex or violence in this movie, but there is some language--I'm not sure just which words, because our handy-dandy TV Guardian silenced them for us. (I've often mentioned here our $49 Wal Mart-found TV Guardian DVD player--it still earns our deep gratitude.)

I can't believe Smoke Signals was made way back in 1998! Where have Tom and I been?

Anyway, I just thought I'd share this movie with those of you who also carry the Napoleon Dynamite gene I mentioned here. While the credits rolled, Tom said, "I'd like to watch more movies like that." I agreed with him.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Well, It's Official...


... I used to worry about Naomi far too much. I know that now.

I can tell because, since she moved out of the house last March, my head feels lighter. So do my shoulders. And I've been more consistently happy than I ever remember being my whole life.

Now understand, I'm not saying that the happiness comes from no longer having Naomi here. No. Of all the thousands of days Naomi lived with us, the vast, vast majority were peaceful, sweet days. Only a fraction were the hard, stressful and uncomfortable days which only a teenager/20-something adult can make happen, like, in a split second, so broad-siding you that you never saw it coming.

No, what I'm saying is that this past nearly-a-year, I've driven around town feeling more peace than worry. Gone are the hours spent on my tip-toes at the front door window waiting for Naomi to come home, late. I've not waken in the mornings dreading a new snowfall because it meant the roads would be slick and Naomi would be driving over them. I've stopped worrying about her cats, her car, her bills and her soap-opera life.

Well, mostly. (I am still her mother, of course.)

All during those years, God convicted me about worrying about Naomi... He reminded me that worry contains fear, and fear brings torment. He told me to let go...let go.... let go... And I tried... and tried.... and tried... But just as I worried less, there would come a new test--a new situation where my trust would be stretched and yanked so far--so far--that I'd even get a bit perturbed with God about those stupid Worry Tests and their frequency.

Let me tell you--it's a complete waste of your life to get mad at God. He knows what He's doing. He's not clueless. We are, though.

But like I said, peace and radical contentment now fill the space previously rented by worry. And I was reminded of that when I read this an hour ago:

"In the spiritual (as in the material) world there is no empty space, and as self, and fear and worries depart out of your life, it follows that the things of the Spirit, that you crave so, rush in to take their places." (From the book, God Calling.)

Exactly. We can't have it both ways and I officially know that now. We can't have lots of worry with lots of peace.... lots of distrust with lots of contentment... lots of fear with lots of joy...

And when God consistently nags us about letting things go, He is only trying to do us a great big favor. He's trying to throw out the old stuff to make room for the new.

And happy is the person who gets that.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

When It's No Longer Fun Playing Dumb


Some Christians are bored and disgusted with their lives for one simple reason--the Playing Dumb Game.

Huh?

Trust me... I know about this game because I played it for hmmm... thirty years, I think. And on occasion I still play it (she confesses).

So what are the rules of Playing Dumb? They're easy (that's half the problem.) All you have to do is, when you hear the still, small voice of God within you, just convincingly pretend as though you never heard it at all. Pretend you are deaf.

That's it.

Man, I was good at this game. If there was a video game at the local mall with Playing Dumb, you would see my initials as the high scorer.

I would Play Dumb when the still, small voice would say, "Let that man go ahead of you in line with his groceries."

"Wait! Hold this mall door open for that person a few feet behind you."

"Call _______ right this minute to encourage her."

"Add more money to that check you are writing for the Red Cross."

"Give away your umbrella to that person who is walking toward you without one."

"Offer to babysit _______'s children for free once a week."

"Hang-out with Me, alone, for awhile each day so you can get to know Me better."

"Stop watching this pathetic/sleazy/time-wasting movie even though you paid to see it."

"Offer to help that person find the cereal she's looking for on the store shelves."

"Run and buy a bag of groceries and give them to that homeless man over there."

Add a thousand other similar things to that list and well, more than likely, at least once in my life I have Played Dumb to each request.

Playing Dumb for years gave me just one thing--a boring, lonely-inside life. I mean, where else could it lead considering that, daily, I was showing God I did not want to cooperate with His custom-made plan for my life?

But first steps must be taken because they lead to later steps and to one incredible, exciting life. Oh, not the James Bond or 24 kind of excitement. No, but the kind of excitement which comes only from carrying-out God's specific plans He made just for you at the beginning of Time.


***
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart..." ...Jeremiah 1:5

"For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome." ... Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Always On My Mind



"You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You." ... Isaiah 26:3

Do you remember when you first fell in love with your spouse? I do. I remember thinking about Tom all the time, even while I was at my job (a very prestigious job, indeed--I washed dishes in a tiny cafe in a tiny town). After work, I would think about him while I walked a few blocks home (I didn't yet have a driver's license), then after walking through my front door I'd think about Tom while washing dishes (my own this time), making dinner, talking with him on the phone, watching tv and then slipping into bed, where I'd think about him, about us, some more before falling asleep.

He was always on my mind, yet I was still able to work at my job, run errands and do chores around my cute little house. And while doing each of those things I smiled a lot, dreamed a lot and felt unusually happy. I remember being teased about the silly look plastered upon my face, but I didn't care. I was in love and it didn't matter what anyone else thought about that.

I wrote all that to say this... Sometimes when you talk about that above Bible verse, the one about keeping your mind on God all the time, people are, like, "Are you kidding? I've got a job. I've got a spouse and kids and responsibilities. I've got a Real Life. There's no way I can think about God all the time."

Well, yes, you can. I have a feeling I'm not the only person in this huge world who ever went through weeks and months of my life thinking about the man she loved and yet carrying-on, productively, with all the duties of her life. I certainly can't be the only person who was pretty darn happy living that way, too.

It can be done. We can go through the months and years of our lives with contented hearts and smiling eyes because of having kept our minds on the goodness, the sweetness of God. And as the rest of that verse says, peace will come as the trust grows.

And everybody wants peace, especially peace of mind. Keeping God on my mind while I'm walking and working and watching and talking has brought me trust--because this communication, this relationship, is not one-sided. God thinks about me all day long, too, and when, simultaneously, I think about Him, our thoughts meet and sing and dance together.

The trust grows.
The peace grows.
And people watch.

Monday, January 23, 2006

24 Lessons


All right, all right--you forced it out of me... During Tom's convalescence after surgery, he and I have become addicted to yet another tv series on dvd. This time it is Keifer Sutherland's show, 24. (If I confessed just how many episodes we watched last week, I'd lose all your respect. So don't even think about asking.)

Wow. Talk about a show so-intense-that-you-have-to-close-your-eyes-a-lot! You have to be courageous to watch this one and you certainly can't let yourself get too attached to any of the main characters. Why not? Because just as you do start really caring about one of them, he/she gets killed in the line of duty. Tom and I sit there practically stressed-out-of-our-minds, squealing things like, "Look behind you! Run!," "No! Don't walk into that dark room alone!," "Oh no! He's going to get killed, I just know it!," "Wait for back-up! Wait for back-up!" And then there's one I repeat over and over when the stress reaches its peak or my current favorite character lies on the ground, dying, "Remember, Debra-- it's only a tv show... it's only a tv show. The actor is still alive in real-life."

Yes, it's that intense. If the typical romantic comedy is about all you can handle, 24 is definitely not the show for you.

Anyway... Yesterday we watched the 5th disc of season 3 and .... (Starting here, I'll be sharing a big spoiler in case you'd like to wait and watch it yourself...............................................)

...it showed a deadly virus being released by terrorists into the air ducts of a large motel in Los Angeles. The hundreds of guests were held at the motel by force by C.T.U. to keep the virus from spreading throughout the city to thousands more people. Within two hours, some of the people began dying terrible, painful deaths. If you came down with any of the symptoms, your death was immanent and guaranteed. Later in the show, tablets were provided for anyone with symptoms who wanted to take them--anyone who wanted, instead, to die painlessly, as though just falling asleep.

Like I said.... this show can be intense.

Well, anyway... I am the holder of the dvd remote in our house and I have been known, on occasion (ok, I do it all the time)to pause the dvd and offer Tom my commentary on what we have just witnessed. And last night as we watched the people dying in that motel, I told him, "Wow. Watching this makes me, more than ever, determined to live each regular old day without regrets. It reminds me to not waste my days complaining, nagging or worrying. Instead, I want to live fully and awake and ready for the end whenever it may come, even if it were to come like what we're watching now."

Today I want to live peacefully and like the adult I am supposed to be by now. Not concerned with petty things people are saying about me.... not going around with hurt feelings.... not dreading what may happen tomorrow... not crying about yesterday... not feeling offended if things said to me are not said just perfectly... not worried, not afraid, not unhappy.

...not gripping this life so tightly that I cannot release it gracefully, and without panic, when the time comes...

Instead, just glad to be alive on this one day, Today. Just glad to know God and to know, too, that someday I'll be living an even sweeter life than this one, in a whole other place.


***
One today is worth two tomorrows. ~ Benjamin Franklin

The preciousness of every moment is emphasized with every tick of the clock. Isn’t it a magnificent day today? ~ Bel Kaufman

This is the day the Lord had made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. ~ Psalm 118:24

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Switching Songs


For Christmas, Tom asked for one of Kimberley Locke's CD's so I bought it for him and for nearly one month, in our car, I've played Eighth World Wonder over and over (maybe to infinity, I'm not sure). Kimberley's voice and that song, together, do something amazing to my eyes because suddenly, outside my windshield, the grey, bare-tree winter melts into something warm, nearly-green, even a little golden. That voice, that song, somehow, remind me of all that is right with my life and that is exactly why I play it--I want to be reminded of how good God has been to me.

Remember when I told you that while I lived depressed and pathetic in Nevada, I used to drive through the barren desert and play sad, bleeding-heart songs? Well, while driving home today with movies and lunch in the car and Kimberly Locke's voice in the CD player, I shook my head and laughed at my Nevada years' foolishness. What I did--listening to despairing songs in the middle of my depression--was like this... It was just the same as having been stabbed once by a stranger, and then afterward, stabbing myself again and again each new time I played a lonely, sad song. And to top it off, expecting that listening to those songs, stabbing myself over and over, would somehow help cure me of my depression.

Wow. It's hard to believe that was even me, I guess because I had to leave that 'me' behind years ago. One step by one step I had to walk myself out of depression by making different choices in what I believed and what and who I listened to. And the neat thing is that every right step led me to a little more light--and when your world has been dark a couple years, even the tiniest ray of light is remarkable and encouraging. And you find there are more steps and more light and more steps and more light until one day, you find yourself riding around in your car listening to happy-sounding songs, singing, and even the dreary winter day outside the windows looks amazing.


***
"Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things..." Psalm 98:1

"Even if you can’t sing well, sing. Sing to yourself. Sing in the privacy of your own home. But sing." ... Rebbe Nachman

Saturday, January 21, 2006

If You Like Victorian Cards...


... you'll love these half-priced Christmas cards from Victorian Trading Company. I order from them every year about this time during the annual Christmas card clearance which you will find here.

So many choices, so little time (and money).

Check it out if this sounds interesting!

End of commercial.... I'll now return you to your own Good Old Days... (see my post below for details).

These Are The Good Old Days


People are funny. I mean, really...

Some people talk about the Good Old Days a whole lot. You know what Good Old Days are, don't you? They are days long gone, but remembered fondly, when you, or people you knew, had great times and felt safe. They are days, when recalled, make you smile and wish you were back there in all their golden-hazed glory.

Some people had their Good Old Days in the 1930's. Let's see... That was the decade of the Great Depression when millions of folks lost all their money and walked the streets looking for work so they could provide for their fearful, starving families. That was when many families shipped their children to relatives who could care for them better and other families lost their teenagers to transient lives on trains looking for work across the U.S. There was also the Dust Bowl and the beginning of World War II across the globe, not to mention a few hundred other tragedies and injustices I am skipping.

Some people I know think of the 1940's as their own Good Old Days. Wow, that's when WWII was in full force, thousands and thousands of soldiers and civilians died and millions of Jews were tortured and murdered in concentration camps. Those were days of ration cards and of nearly everyone receiving news that at least one person (often more) who they knew personally had died in the war.

The 1950's brings smiles to lots of people who personally remember them, poodle skirts and great music and all. But I've read that the 1950's was the time of the Korean War, the McCarthy hearings, outbreaks of polio, segregation, the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war (remember duck and cover?). Again, I am leaving out hundreds of other happenings/tragedies/incidents.

I could, technically, remember the 1960's as my own Good Old Days. I was a young child who loved the places I lived and the friends and memories I made. But oh my... the 1960's was the decade of the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Senator Kennedy. There was also Vietnam and peace marches-turned-violent and tragic.

Some people believe there hasn't been a real Good Old Day since the 1970's. I wonder if they remember the ending years of Vietnam, the resignation (and shame) of the President of the United States, the murders at the Munich Olympics, Love Canal and again, all the other happenings of that time. (I am so not a historian... these are just off the top of my head.)

My point? Throughout all of History, all of Time, always, always the Good Old Days have been ones we carve for ourselves in the midst of the tragedies of life swirling all around us. Since Adam and Eve it's been true--there's always something-- some tragedy somewhere happening to some group of people. Always some war and some rumors of war. Some natural disaster. Some evil people planning to harm good people.

It's always been that way.

And basically, the Good Old Days have always been in our heads--in the way we perceive what is happening to us on any given day. In the way we recall those days--in the way we chose to live them. And it is only a courageous, brave, optimistic person who will have an enormous, always-growing collection of Good Old Days by the time he or she reaches the end of his or her life.

Even now, still, these are the Good Old Days...

...for those who do not allow this present darkness to blind them to the good which still exists.

...for those who have not hindsight, but the present-sight to create a Good Old Life in the middle of what appears to be days quite dark, indeed.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Do You Ever Save Your Email?


Last week I almost wrote a post about my pet peeves... maybe another day I will.

But, in the meanwhile, here's one of them: I hate it when people use sweeping generalizations, usually containing words like "all," "always," or "never." Ones which come to my mind? "All tv evangelists are only in it for the money," "All men nowadays are scum," "Kids today are always spoiled/thugs/shallow," or "Nothing good ever happens to me." (And the list goes on...)

Well, here's another one, one I come across every few months it seems--this month it appeared on the last page of the latest issue of the magazine, Home Companion (one of the few magazines out there which I still enjoy):

"We don't write letters anymore. We dash off email and text messages. We send our love into the world as ephemeral electrons. It won't clutter out closets, and our children won't have to sort through it when we die. It's efficient, it's convenient, and it's fast. But in one click, it's gone." ... Joseph M. Schuster

Every time I see this re-hashed, negative sentiment I ask, "Does no one own a printer? Does no one print out the extra-special email they receive from friends and lovers? What makes an email so extremely different from an old-fashioned letter? Aren't we still able, in an email, to write and express our deepest, most intimate thoughts with those we love?"

"We don't write letters anymore." Bah! Who says? Personally, I write more letters now than I ever did in the past--only the mode of their transportation has changed. And ok, so I don't use paper stationery. But I'll tell you one thing I do-- I save the most meaningful, touching emails I receive. I print them out (sometimes on special computer stationery), trim the edges with my Victorian-edged scissors, then place them, folded, inside my current diary.

You should see my last few diaries... interwoven amongst their pages are those special emails and also post cards and theater tickets and gift bookmarks and newspaper clippings, photos and who knows what else. My diaries are my scrapbooks, the collections of the paper-thin memories and highlights of my days, both ordinary and extra-special. In fact, I dare you to look through my diary-scrapbooks fifty years from now and not feel as though you are holding a fun piece of old-fashioned history, the same way you would feel now, today, if you were to look through such a diary from the 1930's, with my printed-out email and all.

Why must some people (notice I did not say 'all') see today as being not nearly as good as yesterday? Is there some kind of a film over our eyes when we cannot glimpse the good in things which appear a bit different, a little tweaked because of time and change, but are, in reality, just as good or maybe even better than their earlier counterpart? Why is a new package so often perceived as a bad one?

Well anyway, to satisfy my own curiosity, I'd like to ask you, my readers, Do you ever save your email? And while I'm at it, Are you writing more 'letters' today than you were before you went online?

Please assure me I'm not the only one who is saving my memories for those who will someday look through my closets for treasure.

When You Want a Different Talent (Or, Those Poor Kids on American Idol)


Like a few million other people, Tom and I watched American Idol last night (she confesses).

We'd been anticipating it and as always, it did not disappoint. Well, maybe a little. I mean, although it's great fun to hear the awful, delusional wannabe's, it would have been equally nice to hear more from those who could actually sing a note on key. A little horrible squawking goes a very, very long way and it was odd that the judges let some of it go on sooo long. A few times, peace-loving, God-fearing Tom and I threw walnuts at the tv screen and moaned, "For heaven's sake, put the kid out of his misery!"

Well, anyway, like I noted here last year, American Idol, for me, is a great case study in human nature gone awry. Those poor kids--the ones who truly believe they can sing, but who, oh my, cannot. Why do they do this to themselves? Why do they buy airline tickets or drive thousands of miles just to stand before judges who will, quite likely, fling the truth at them, "That was horrible. You are not a singer!"? (Actually, with Simon being involved, you're likely to hear much worse-- words which just may sear your soul for years to come.)

The reasons for this self-asked-for torture are many and varied, I know. Some people just crave recognition--whether it be fame for greatness or idiocy--it matters not. And well, I do realize the list is endless why nice, decent kids would subject themselves to such incredibly-public humiliation.

But what stands out to me most, year after American-Idol-year, is that thing of not accepting ones own God-given talent... of craving, instead, a spotlight talent. Of so strongly desiring a talent which will bring (they believe) enormous fame, huge accolades, applause and acceptance by the masses and by ones own self.

It's so easy to watch those clueless kids who try out for American Idol (some year after year) and pity them. And yet, how many of us have the exact same mindset? How many of us have wished we had the 'in front of the curtain' talents? The ones everyone notices and applauds?

This is such a huge topic, way too big for a simple blog post... but all I know is that talents and callings are given to help and encourage mankind--the other guy, not ourselves. It is in the giving that we receive. And there is no better gift or talent to be had other than the ones we already have been given. Life gets exciting when you use your own, custom-given talent and if there is no joy in the giving of it, the fault is our own--not God's, not our parents', our siblings', the general public's, not even Simon Cowell's.

What if? What if all the unhappy wannabe's who spent energy, time and money traveling to the American Idol try-outs had, instead, put all that energy, time and money into discovering what their real talent was? And then, what if, once their talents were discovered, they proceeded to put energy, time and money into developing those talents into something exceptional?

It's hard to imagine a world where thousands and thousands of people were faithfully, masterfully using their God-given talents, isn't it? It's especially difficult because too often what we see, instead, are people wanting what others have worked hard for and the happiness which comes from a job well-done and self-mastery. What we see are people wanting the fame which proceeds some gifts, thinking that fame meets the deepest needs of human hearts.

But it doesn't, because it was never about fame or money or spotlights in the first place. It's always been about this:

"...It is more blessed to give than to receive." ... Acts 20:35

There is an incredible secret there. I hope you've found it, too.

Monday, January 16, 2006

What You Might Miss At The Supermarket


Over the last two days I've made sure Tom was resting comfortably in the recliner and had every little thing he could possibly need, and then I have rushed out to supermarkets or convenience stores. Quickly, I've walked up and down the aisles to find the apples or frozen meals, and especially, the bagged ice for Tom's little ice machine-thing (which I'd never searched for before in any store, so this has been rough. In case you ever need bagged ice, check first in the darkest, farthest corner of any food store--the ice will probably be there).

Anyway, I've gone zipping down those aisles, keeping in mind that Tom is at home in that chair, unable to get up and move around by himself, at least, it isn't wise for him to do that at this moment after having the surgery on his arm on Friday and often being light-headed from the meds and sitting for such long stretches. His shoulder has been in pain and he's often had trouble getting comfortable in the recliner. And well, there's everything else which goes with all this.

But while I am racing down those supermarket aisles I am also reminding myself that at any given time on any day of the year there are always, always people in these same stores who are going through similar situations--or worse ones. I think it was Jack Webb on Dragnet who used to say something like, "There are a million different stories in the city," and often I think there are a million different stories belonging to the people who must run down to the supermarket for groceries. And there are a million kind of hurts which people can have on any given day and a million cares for a million tired caretakers of ones they love.

Who knows where it all ends?

But it's at times like these in my life when I remember all this... and when I promise myself that in future days I will take the time to look around me while I shop--really look around me--at the people next to me and down the aisle... look to see if I can read anxious or worried looks upon their faces. And better yet, I can ask God to show me specific people for whom I should whisper prayers right there, right then, before I go on my own way and forget.

Who knows what good may come from doing that? Only God knows for certain.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Oh, The Stress of It All...


So there I was in the sauna-like waiting room all day yesterday while Tom had surgery on his arm. I wrote little descriptive blog posts in my head to you while sitting at a little Bistro table in the window drinking the free coffee(!) spiked with my cappucino powder which I carry in my large Mary Engelbreit bag for such occasions. It's rather like a kid bringing along her book bag stuffed with toys and snacks.

Anyway, I sat there and I could feel your prayers--I was so grateful for them and I do thank each of you who prayed for Tom. Truly, it made the whole ordeal a bit easier, especially when the surgeon came out and said he'd found more torn ligaments and cartilage than he'd seen in the x-rays, but he'd been able to, as far as he could tell, repair the whole big mess.

But then I brought Tom home.

It was deja vu of his neck surgery four years ago, you know, the part where every minute he needs me to do three things for him all at one time (while the cats need to be fed and Lennon needs his insulin shot and I need to run to the store for ice for the little ice machine, see below), and the stress makes me feel as though I'm in an episode of 24 where every decision is a split-second one and if you mess-up, the world will be destroyed--and it will be all my fault.

Well, it feels a little like that, anyway. And there's the fun of being wakened by the bell he's shaking every three hours in the moonlight hours because he needs medicine which means he needs me to prepare something for him to eat,too--always interesting to be in my kitchen at 2 a.m.... Or he needs me to walk him to the restroom... And there's the need to add ice and water to the handy little ice machine he's hooked up to (an extremely annoying and complicated little contraption which hates me already and fights so I cannot close it's lid...long story)... All of this while my head is throbbing from being wakened out of a sound sleep full of crazy dreams which do not make sense.

Yep, deja vu of four years ago... But you know? It's ok. It's all done for the man I love and at least he is still here with me... It's only for a season and besides, it's only these first two or three days and long nights which will be rough. And someday, this too, will be just a memory as the other surgeries now are.

I'm glad I learned years ago to view my life according to its current seasons. To realize, this too shall pass...nothing lasts forever, so I need to let that encourage me when it's something bad and be ok with it when it when it involves something good. Tomorrow is always another day filled with it's trials, but mostly with it's good parts... and it's the good parts I need to be awake to today and appreciate so that when tomorrow comes, I'll have few regrets because I splashed around in all the goodness and missed none of it...

...So that on no future day will I say, "I should have appreciated my life while it didn't appear amazing but was, in reality, quite amazing, indeed."

***
P.S. I'd keep adding to this, but I've gotta run and wash the dishes which are piling up faster in my sink than the snow outside, snow which I will later shovel out of our driveway...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Of Winter and Surgeries


Tomorrow Tom will have surgery done on his shoulder.

In the eons we have been married, Tom has had two other surgeries, both on the back of his neck. Tom had the first surgery on Naomi's 7th birthday--that's how I can remember it took place in January. The other surgery, four years ago, took place, I believe, in early February of 2002.

Winter is not a good time to have surgery. Well, in a way it is--there's less going on, at least in our little world where, when the snow flies, people hibernate inside their homes. Sometimes we even have forced hibernation when the snow gets really, really bad and the newsmen announce you will be ticketed if the police see you driving--or trying to drive, anyway-- anywhere.

But I'm rambling... What I want to say is that this time, with this surgery, everything feels different. I mean, I feel different. Usually this time of year feels more like 'Januweary' and my face is pressed against the window glass to absorb any little puny, weak ray of sun peeking through grey snow clouds. Usually I am already counting down days until Spring... whining in my diary about how bleak the bare trees and yards appear... and dreading all the weeks ahead when I will be worrying my brains out my ears each time Tom or Naomi are out driving on slick roads.

But not this year. Something has changed. Oh, the changes haven't come--poof!--all just this week. No, they began a few years ago when I stopped relying on everything and everybody outside of me to make me happy. Boy, was life one long teeter-totter ride during those first 44 years or so (hey... these things take time...don't laugh.).

Now, instead of acting like an emotional vacuum cleaner trying to suck up any and all emotional charges from pats on the back and people telling me I'm special... and all the little boosts you get from having enough friends and money and appreciation... Now I get out of bed in the mornings for just one reason--because God is good. And because He is good, it's going to be a good day inside of me no matter what happens on the outside of me....whether the sun shines her beautiful face, or she hides it.

That's it. When God finally moved up my own personal list of favorite people (it took me a real, real long time to put Him there), that's when my life became good. So good, in fact, that even now I can say that January and February are good months, too.

And this January is still going to be a good month even though Tom is having surgery tomorrow and will miss 4 weeks from work and I will have to do everything for him because he won't be allowed to use his left arm (and of course, he would have to be left-handed...). It's still going to be a great winter.

And really, you don't know what a personal miracle it is for me to say that.

We Interrupt Your Regularly-Scheduled Blog Posts...


... for a commercial.

Minutes ago I ordered some adorable Mary Engelbreit Valentine's Day cards and I just had to share their extreme cuteness with you. The original page is here.

I love Valentine's Day. I would tell you that, technically, I love it better than Christmas, but some of my readers would have heart attacks. So I'll not mention that I love it better than what-the-world-calls-Christmas, ok?

Why do I love Valentine's Day? It's more low-pressure than Christmas... you can mail adorable little cards to anyone you have ever known in your whole long life and surprise (and delight) their socks off... and make them feel very special, loved and fondly remembered.

And that's just for starters...

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled blog posts...

P.S. And for my men readers, especially, let me remind you that Valentine's Day will be February 14th... better that I remind you now, rather than your spouse/significant other on late-night February 13th.

God, The Great Babysitter?


Man oh man, did I laugh when I read a certain incredible post from Lauren's blog. She'd expressed her shock at what she commonly was reading in God Blogs and then was asked what her expectations of blogs written by Christians had been at first. Why did I laugh? Because my expectations of God Blogs had been exactly the same as Lauren's. Here is how she worded what she'd expected to see:

"My expectations were probably a bit lofty for a bunch of saved-by-grace sinners. I thought we, as bloggers who claimed the name of Christ, would look to the rest of the world as if we were in agreement about most of what we claim to believe. I anticipated that when we commented on other Christian blogs we would do so with love, compassion, understanding, and the book of James in mind. I desired that when non-believers quietly and inconspicuously came to read what we were about, that they would see the difference between the Christian blogdom and the secular and they would deeply desire to be apart of that something very different that we showed forth."

Gee, were Lauren and I naive, or what?

And yet, my Pollyanna genes still are whispering, "It's not too late. There's still time to show Blogdom that where Jesus is, there is Love. And Light. And Peace. And Joy."

But only after humility. Only after the changes only God, Himself, can make in His naughty, fighting children, those with the 'voice of one crying in the nursery' (as opposed to the wilderness)... those still whacking each other over the head when they disagree or act-out when they are jealous or insecure....

There is a great big hurting world out there and I imagine that God, The Great Babysitter(?), is just aching to see us, His kids, grow up to where He can trust us to heal and not cause further hurt in His kingdom.

Maybe?


***
"We ought always to thank God for you...because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing." 2 Thessalonians 1:3

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs..." 1 Corinthians 13:4,5

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Wanting to Install a Gossip Check


"...take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."... James 1:19

Will we, as Christians, ever live by that verse? Will we ever stop believing every word the AP publishes and then immediately go shooting off our mouths (or madly scribbling in our blogs) like Commandos for God?

Those have been my thoughts today ever since I heard on tv one more Christian in the public eye (read: easy target) point out that he'd been misquoted (again) by the Press. He held the proof in his hands and the rare hurt in his voice hurt me, too.

I don't know about you, but it's not enough for me just to have a spell-check in my blog. No, I want a gossip check, too. I want to click on an icon and have it zero in on anything--anything--which even resembles gossip--and then delete it.

I so do not want to be guilty of causing hurt in peoples' hearts and voices like the hurt I heard today--a hurt, a sound, which haunts me still, even late tonight. I cringe to even think of parroting a bad report about a specific person in my blog without, first, checking out his/her side of the story. (If you catch me doing that in the future, please call me on it.)

Instead, I want to remember all the times I valiantly declared certain things were true years ago, yet now, I don't even believe those certain things are true at all.

I want to recall how many times I have spoken without thinking first of how it might make my listeners feel... how many times I madly ran with only half the story.

I want to remember how many times I have changed my mind... how many times I've so needed peoples' patience as I grew in God.

I want to mind my own business--to not feel like I have a right to voice an opinion each time someone--anyone-- in the limelight changes the way she wears her hair or her clothes or if a man chooses to grow a beard. Heaven help me if I think it's my business how others raise their children or what car they choose to drive or what type of home they buy.

Why? Because, no matter what kind of spin I may put on it or no matter how I may share it--it's all gossip. It's all a bunch of stones being thrown from my hands.

And the Bible has much to say about both gossip and throwing stones--and it's not good, light-hearted or encouraging.

Well, even though gossip checks haven't officially been invented (have they?) I'm going to, from this day forward, run a manual one.

God help me.

***
"For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." ... Matthew 12:37

"So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers." ... 3 John 1:10

Attack of the Killer Pessimists


"No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit. " ... Helen Keller

There have been years and times in my life when I've sat and talked with The Pessimists Amongst Us. Have you ever done that? It's quite a scary thing because T.P.A.U. delight in discovering what is wrong with everything in Life. They may frown and appear sour on the outside as they sit across the table from you (or whisper to you from Blogland), but on the inside, they are giddy with negativity. They are proud of their expertise at being able to decipher, immediately, why some plan, some invention, some happy person will fail. They revel in 'being realistic' and they quote from the front page of the newspaper as though it was their Bible (and often, it is).

They have seen the future--and it is dark.

You can try to cheer them up, but good luck. You point out the possibility that something good may come out of something bad (Romans 8:28), but they just shake their head, and either they play the, "I'm older and wiser than you, kid," card or else end the conversation with a pitying smile and a, "Okay, believe that if it makes you happy." Then, if their dire predictions later come to pass, they are pleased as proverbial punch to tell you, "I told you so."

There's a certain feeling I get around people like that. My hand automatically goes to my throat, (perhaps to figuratively stop my inner hope and optimism from escaping through my mouth from my heart), and my eyes start searching for a door of escape. After I've valiantly, yet needlessly, played all my, "Look on the bright side" cards and said what I believed God wanted me to say, all that comes to me at that point is something like, "Beam me up, Scotty! Get me out of here before my brain is pecked and attacked by this horrible, negative disease."

Why is that feeling so strong for me? Because there was a sorry time in my life when I, too, was a pessimist... I, too, sat across tables from people who suddenly jumped up with excuses why they had to leave earlier than they'd planned. And so maybe now, it's rather like why a former alcoholic, if he's wise, no longer hangs out at bars or keeps liquor in the house... or why a recovering food addict clears the cupboards of Twinkies or potato chips... or why someone who has quit smoking no longer carries a purse full of cigarettes.

What's wrong with being a pessimist? Because this post is getting long, I'll just answer that with a little something Jesus said:

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you will have tribulation: but cheer up! I have overcome the world."... John 16:33


***
"Do you know what a pessimist is? A man who thinks everybody as nasty as himself, and hates them for it."
- George Bernard Shaw

"Every pessimist who ever lived has been buried in an unmarked grave. Tomorrow has always been better than today, and it always will be."
- Paul Harvey

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Return to Toyland


A year ago I bought an old record album, for $1, at our local Salvation Army store, It's called Best of The Great Songs of Christmas and even now, January 9th, while I sit in my lamp-lit dream room, I am still playing that 1970's Christmas album. There's just something about it.

Months ago, only after I'd listened to Doris Day's Toyland song, did I realize this was the same album my parents owned while I was growing-up. Instantly, I was catapulted back into my 13-year-old body and standing inside our living room at that time, a former classroom of our church (but that's another post), listening to Doris' lovely voice singing these words:

Toyland, toyland
little girl and boy land
when you dwell within it
you are ever happy there!

Childhood toyland
mystical merry toyland
once you pass it's borders
you can never return again.

Always, I would become all teary-eyed by the song's bittersweet end, because at 13, I was on the far outer banks of Toyland--and I knew it. I knew I was just one step away from the gate and the curvy road of no return.

There is a mystical, merry toyland and we do all leave it. Even the Apostle Paul mentioned it:

"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me." 1 Corinthians 13:11

The key which lets us out the gate is that crazy desire we find in our little head one day, the one which says, "I want to be an adult. I want to be all grown-up and no longer told what to do--I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it."

And that is natural and right and fine, as long as it's not rushed and taken to extremes (which, sadly, it often is).

But then long about age 40, we find ourselves wanting back into Toyland. Oh, not the very same one, of course, (though some people toy with that idea), but a kinder, gentler land for adults who have eaten of adulthood for years and years and have still been found wanting. They are full and yet empty, too. They've had enough of adulthood as they've seen and known it. Many along the way discovered that getting what you think you want, when you want it, wasn't like their childish minds dreamed it would be. Others still have those childhood dreams because as of yet, they've still not experienced them.

And then there are others, and I think I'm in this group, who want this other Toyland because to them, to us, we believe it will make our already-good, yet flawed, lives better. We glimpse another place, over there, just beyond that gate, where things and life and relationships are simpler and where our imaginations are returned to us. There's not as much 'stuff' over there. We've grown weary of complication and always having to figure things out and thinking(and thinking and thinking) and planning ahead. We're exhausted from worrying and working hard and the bills and problems and whining children which we, ourselves, have created.

So we gaze at the gates of that simpler life, that new, improved Toyland with the wide, green lawns and sun and peace-- and we long to live there, instead of in the chaos where we live now.

And I have discovered that we can live there.

There is a new key, however, one which now lets us in, which we have to discover within our pockets. And the label on the key reads, Change. Change is required to open the gate to a simplicity which brings joy and happiness and a head no longer hurting, top-heavy with the weight of the world.

And only God can make and file that Change key. And only the people who realize that--only those who let God change them--only they are the folks you see just beyond those wrought-iron gates frolicking and dancing with joy as they go about doing all those daily tasks we all must do--all those things, little and big, which God asks and enables us to do for Him. All are done and completed with that sense of joy just right over there--just beyond the gates which open into the new Toyland for the adults who wearied of becoming adults along the way.

***
"Oh unhappy and pitiable and wretched man that I am! Who will release and deliver me from [the shackles of] this body of death? Oh thank God! [He will!] through Jesus Christ (the Anointed One) our Lord!" ... Romans 7:24,25

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Excuse Me While I Go On Being Happy


Well, it took me just four days to break my one new year's resolution (she says, slapping her wrist). I went ahead and visited a God blog which, in the past, I've only read every four months, or so, since usually there are bitter words written describing churches, pastors and happy-homemaker-type women(!). Usually I'm asking myself, "Why am I even over here?"

So this time, I found a type of post which I've seen in other blogs in increasing frequency. You may have seen one or two similar posts, yourself. It's the old rehashed, regurgitated post which, in my paraphrase sounds like, "Happiness-is-a-bad-thing-because-it-comes-from-getting-what-you-want-but-joy-is-ok-because-it's-from-God-so-if-you-are-happy-you-are-being-carnal-and-fleshly-and-selfish."

Man, I hate that.

I mean, ok... I can understand wanting to be on the cutting edge and questioning what we've been taught since we were babies shaking the sides of our cribs, and yet there is still such a thing as going too far. There is still such a thing as analyzing a thing to death. (Am I the only one who has ever noticed that analyze is, well, uhm, er, like anal-yze?)

And besides, I just dare you to have joy without having any happiness mixed-up in there with it.

The Bible seems to think happiness is a good thing...

"If you know these things, happy are you if you do them." John 13:17

"Behold, we count them happy which endure." James 5:11

"If you are reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you; for the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you..." 1 Peter 4:14

"Happy is the man that finds wisdom, and the man that gets understanding." Proverbs 3:13

"...he that has mercy on the poor, happy is he." Proverbs 14:21

(For a hundred more similar verses from the Amplified Bible, click here.)

And please don't give me the old, "Tsk., tsk...Yes, well, ahem! Don't you knoooow that the word 'happiness' in the Greek/Hebrew/Latin/Gnostic/Jupiter/Mars/Garden Gnome text actually means, " Just a confused state of mind when one believes one is glad when actually one is, in reality, only temporarily relieved of the pain which is Life (blah, blah, blah....blah,blah...blah,blah...)."

I'm not buying it.

No, I'm going to agree with the Bible on this one. And I'll agree with this, too:

"Happiness which the world cannot take away only flourishes in the secret garden of our souls. By tending to our inner garden and uprooting the weeds of external expectations, we can nurture our authentic happiness the way we would nurture something that's beautiful and alive." ...Sarah Ban Breathnach

And I like what my favorite teacher says, too, something rather like this, "Having a daily happiness is like living with a calm delight." I like that, probably because that's what I have had--a calm delight-- these recent years since I allowed God to drive His trash truck into my heart and unload the mounds of garbage He unearthed there. That same kind of trash which kept me so overly-introspective, logically-minded and anal-ytically proud that I could never be just plain old-fashioned happy.


***
"A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of." ... John 10:10

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Lists We Make


January is always a good month to talk about lists. In my last post I mentioned the list you could always find me keeping years ago, the Everything Going Wrong In My Life List.

It came to me this week that, really, I must have gotten away from keeping that list because here in my blog I haven't even told you what kind of a week I've had. You probably thought everything has just been ducky fine at Debra's house, right?

Well, no. For starters, Tom came home from work on Tuesday night with the stomach flu. Poor guy--I asked him if he wanted anything for dinner and when I showed him a can of peaches, he went running into the bathroom and, well, let's draw the curtain closed as to what happened after that.

So then I asked him if he wanted me to run to the convenience store for some ginger ale. He did, so I got in the car and drove down there in the dark. Well, A.) I try to avoid driving in the dark at all costs and for the sake of all mankind... I just can't see as well as I used to, and B.) This same convenience store was robbed in November, right about at the same time of the evening as when I would be there. But hey... for better or for worse, in sickness and health and all that good stuff which makes you do crazy things....(and speaking of crazy things, for two days I tried not to inhale when I was around him....man, I so do not want that horrible stomach flu!).

Well, of course the ATM there was out of order, and of course I had only three dollars with me so I couldn't pick up anything else I needed--that would have been just too, too convenient. So later, there I was standing in line at the same convenience store where I'd been telling Tom I didn't want him to go after dark anymore, and of course I'm there using all my newly acquired C.S.I. skills (being a C.S.I. tv show addict), memorizing who was standing next to me in case I'd later have to identify the robber from the mug shots they'd show me in my hospital bed.

Heh. But miracles of miracles, I made it home safely with not one, but two bottles of ginger ale (so I wouldn't have to risk my life and go back later for more).

Well, next morning Tom called in sick to work because he hadn't been able to sleep and still felt sick. Then in the afternoon, he had to keep his pre-arranged doctor appointment where they told him that, yes, he would for sure have to have surgery on his arm a week from Friday.

What? Yes, that's another thing which shows me I no longer concentrate on the Everything Which Is Going Wrong In My Life List.... I didn't even tell you that back in December Tom slipped down our front stairs and hurt his shoulder. A.) He should never have been anywhere even near those front stairs because they had snow on them and B.) At first he tried to blame this on me because I had locked our back storm door and the paper boy (don't you get a weird picture in your head when people say "paper boy"?) hadn't been able to leave the newspaper plastered to our back door. And well, it was the newspaper Tom was trying to retrieve from our front mailbox (where the paper boy puts it when Debra forgets to unlock the storm door). And there's a C.) too--- I hadn't put the white chain across our front steps yet (to keep people off them and so I won't have to shovel them, either, being the lazy slob which I am), even though we'd had snow two whole times. (But did I mention that our driveway was perfectly dry and Tom could have easily just walked that way to the mailbox to get the newspaper?)

Argh... Well, there are more gorey details to that Front Steps Disaster Story, but what it amounts to is that Tom will have surgery on his arm next Friday and will miss 3 - 4 weeks of work. And of course, he will have to keep his left arm immobile all that time and guess who is left-handed? And then guess who will have to put her life on hold for those 3 to 4 weeks?

Yet.... guess who doesn't really mind at all? I mean, why else am I here? No, don't jump on that--I'm not here in this life only to wait on and serve my husband... but that is part of why I am here on this earth. That, and because yes, it's all about 'from this day forward'.... 'in sickness and in health'.... And that's okay with me because when you're in love, even after 27 long, crazy years, you do what you have to.

And if you're smart, you just list your blessings, namely, that you still have your love with you, even though he's a little worse for the wear.

***
P.S. ...Oh! How could I forget? Also this week, our bathtub drain was completely clogged for three days. So yesterday Tom spent 2 hours in the basement unclogging the drain. But hooray, the whole pipe is now clog-free and we can now shower again-woo-hoo!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

And When She Was Bad She Was Terrible...



Sometimes I look back to my depressing Nevada Years to learn more about how I got there in the first place--and so that I'll never end up there again. No, I don't mean never returning to the state of Nevada (heh) but instead, to the ugly state of depression I experienced there.

Back in those dreary days I'd ask, "How did I get here? Why do I hate to get out of bed and dread every dark, lonely afternoon before Naomi gets home from school?" (I could pull myself together for her sake after school, which should tell you something...but that may be another post).

The main problem? I kept asking myself why I was depressed, but I was afraid to ask God--because I knew (knew, knew, knew) He would tell me something I didn't want to hear. He would make it sound like the fault was mine. (Mine? That couldn't be!) And so like many people, I waited years-- until I got dreadfully sick and tired--and then I finally asked God where I'd gotten so lost that I had tumbled into such a deep pit.

It's all so clear now, yet in the middle of those horrible days I can honestly say I had no idea why I was the way I was. I had major trust issues with God and basically, I thought I knew better than He did what I needed and wanted.

(Pride...pride...pride.)

No wonder I was so depressed back then:

I kept a running mental list of everything that was going wrong in my life and talked about that list all the time.

I held grudges against anyone who hurt my feelings.

I complained that we lived where we lived and I always whined about having to live in the God-forsaken Nevada desert.

I read articles which said I would be happy if only I had an outside job or went back to school, yet I didn't want to do either of those, so I just sat around and let my mind be yanked around in that tug of war.

I read magazine articles (lots) saying that I was wasting my time and talents at home, so then I felt like everyone 'out there' was a happy success and I was an embarrassing failure.

Tom's job took him out of town for four days each week so I'd be lonely because I was depending upon him for my happiness. Then when he'd get the next four days off, I would nag him the whole time about how he was always gone (which just made him want to run a whole lot of errands and never be home on his days off, either...which caused more arguments...etc., etc...).

I had no new friends where we lived (since I was shy and just stayed home and felt miserable) so I began living for the mail I received from old friends I'd left behind. When I would receive no mail, I'd feel despair, then upset at anyone who didn't understand (and relieve) my pain.

I became active in our church to try to find personal fulfillment and appreciation, but that didn't work so I only became more lonely and desperate.

Because I was afraid of what God might say to me, I spent no quiet time with Him getting to know Him better.

I was holding onto something (a ministry) which God had told me to let go of because He had finished with it long, long ago. But I held on to it anyway, even when God used other people to tell me to let go. I believed I knew best and they were only trying to hinder me(pride, pride, pride).

And here was the biggest cause of my depression: I loved every person in my life more than I loved God. I relied on everyone else for my happiness instead of relying on God.

My, my, my... Like I said, it's all so CLEAR now, but honestly, I was blind to all of this back then--because I didn't WANT to see any of it. I just wanted to believe if only everyone else would change... and if my address would change... and if my circumstances would change, then I would feel good once again.

Only when I finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired... only when I was ready to hear from God as to where I had gone wrong--and admit my faults/sins/errors... only then was I able to climb out of the deep dark hole I'd dug. And even then I had to take it step by step, year by year.

And now there is Light.

And all these 13 years later I have never again crawled back down that dark cave (are you kidding?). I've only peeked down from around the upper ledge so that I can now, as God leads, give an outstretched hand to those who are still suffering deep inside that horrible, terrible dark pit.

***
"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:36

Everyday Magic


My life is filled with magic.

Now, I hope you are not one of those stodgy, straight-laced Christians who frowned when you read that sentence because you thought I meant black magic or Harry Houdini magic or pull-a-poor-rabbit-from-a-hat magic. Trust me, I didn't mean any of those.

No, I meant the kind of magic akin to imagination and dreams and delightful surprises on ordinary winter afternoons when snow is falling and logs or candles are burning in your fireplace. (I also meant fairies, but you go mentioning those and some people stare at you oddly.)

I wrote earlier that this year I'll be skipping the blogs which are written by people who feel they are called to suck and vacuum the joy and fun and freedom out of life. The ones which, last month, warned me that there's a dark, ugly side for Christians (and others) to the movies, A Christmas Carol and It's A Wonderful Life. Ones which said any parent who plays Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus and Easter Bunny with their children is a miserable liar and will pay a price. The ones who pounce upon and chew-up any fellow-Christian who has ever stood for a cause-from-the-heart or made a mistake. Yes, those are the blogs I'm avoiding in 2006.

And this, in part, is why:

Those blogs sound too much like the voices, the people Francis P. Church exposed in his column written to Virginia O'Hanlon (and to the world) in 1897--the people who "tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside." They are those who never, in this life, will see that "there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond."

And when Mr. Church says, even these hundred and nine years later, "The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see," well, I still stand and cheer along with those of you close beside me in crowds so thick, so wide-spread--so joyful--that they overspill the Earth until they touch bright stars and intermingle with the angels on the very edge of Heaven.

I am in that happy crowd of those who sing through the most ordinary days of the world... the ones who've never destroyed a single rattle, but have always smiled to hear the sounds they make... the ones who see as the real heroes those who get up out of their chairs and Try, whether they succeed or not. Because Doers are the brave ones, the ones who deserve to speak, unlike Sitters who scowl and feel free to rip apart those who failed, never even thinking that at least they Tried. At least they got out of the safe Life's Observer Boats and tried to walk on water and do a new thing.

If you are a fun-sucking, Life-sucking, Light-dimming, grouchy old blog-writing Christian, I wish you a new morning when you open your eyes as though for the very first time. And I wish you the joy which comes from seeing your days in a new Light which reveals a kind of Living--a kind of magic--seen no other way.

***

Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20:29

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. Titus 1:15

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

So You Think You're Being Persecuted?


The Bible says there's such a thing as persecution for the godly.
And then there's 'persecution' because I was just plain stupid.

Ten years ago there's no way God would have let me have a blog. Well, ok, so there weren't blogs back then and I wasn't online yet, either. That's beside the point.

No, back then He couldn't have trusted me with the huge responsibility which is Blogging. Constantly I would have stated things in such a way that long lines of people would have crowded into my comment box, daily, just itching to to criticize me and what I had said.

And I would have gone around whining and sighing, "I'm being persecuted in my blog. Poor, mistreated, misjudged me." And I would have fought back and poor ol' God would have been embarrassed to pieces to even know me.

No, really.

Here are examples of what I would have said back then and how I would say it now:

Then: Only an idiot would think he could get to Heaven by a different route than through Jesus.
Now: "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" ... John 14:6

Then: I don't care what your school or your pastor or your own mother taught you--they were wrong in this case.
Now: While growing-up we learn tons of things, but there comes a time to finally seek God for real Truth--and be willing to relearn some of what we have learned.

Then: What? You don't read at least one chapter a day from the Bible?
Now: One man's obedience is another man's works. Each of us should read the Bible as God leads us, and graces us, individually.

Then: Huh! Well, someday you'll see that I'm right when your wobbly knees are bowing and your tongue is confessing that Jesus is Lord!
Now: "...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord..." Philippians 2:10,11

Then: You should live and do exactly like I live and do.
Now: This is how I live.

How we say a thing is equally as important as what we say. We need more than just the right message--we need the right tone which comes only from a right heart.

What a frightening thing it is to be held responsible for the part we play if we make anyone run from God in disgust/fear/anger. What a heavy responsibility to represent our Father--an impossible one when we're led by our heads instead of by His heart... that longsuffering, compassionate, loving heart of His.

How important, then, it becomes for me to die daily so that any persecution which comes my way will be because I was like Jesus--not because I was, like, stupid.

***
"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted..." ... II Timothy 3:12

"...be therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." ... Matthew 10:16